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The Best Kettlebell Exercises You Should Be Doing

W.O.W. by Shannon Carter

Shannon Carter, the latest addition to Heartline Midwest’s team, is a big proponent of finding an exercise, a piece of equipment or something that you like and are comfortable with, and then make the most of it. She enjoys variety in her workout regimen, but Kettlebells ae a big part of it. Here she shares some great intel on working out with these perennial favorites and a few specific exercises to use them to your advantage.

Kettlebell exercises are part of my weekly workouts as they allow me to do total body strength exercises and conditioning at once.  No need to isolate when you can build a dynamic total-body strength and conditioning with my 7 GO-TO kettlebell exercises.

Can you get everything you need from the kettlebell? Technically yes, but that is not what this is about, so do not get rid of your bands, bars, and bikes just yet. I am going to provide my personal treasure map to getting stronger, leaner, and bigger with this simple chunk of iron—and it’s not going to be through the same old moves you already know.

Because the “technical” parts of these exercises is so important, I took much of the detailed descriptions of the exercises from www.BodyBuilding.com | To view the same full articles with more pictures, click here.

Get The Fundamentals Correct First

Kettlebells are not anything new, but their popularity in fitness circles continues to rise—and with good reason. When used correctly, kettlebells are extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning.

The problem is that kettlebells are often used improperly. As with any technical movement, lift, or skill, proper coaching is required to maximize the benefits.  See How-To Videos: 52 Kettlebell Exercises with Videos (No.7 is a top fat burner) (kettlebellsworkouts.com). These videos should propel your fitness knowledge.

The fundamentals of kettlebell training come down to just six exercises. These are the foundational exercises, known as the “sacred 6.” Nail these and you are on your way to a better body, according to Men’s Health writer Naomi Nazario.  I added a bonus exercise to make it 7 foundational exercises. 

Here are your ‘7 Foundational Kettlebell Exercises’

Exercise 1. The Swing

The swing is considered the most powerful kettlebell movement because it represents full-body power, extreme fat loss, and an elevated level of cardiovascular conditioning. It is also the foundation of all kettlebell’s ballistic exercises.

The Russian-style kettlebell swing, in which you project the kettlebell to shoulder-height only, is an insanely effective exercise when executed with proper form. Hip power, hip hinging, and breathing techniques make it incredibly powerful. It is a two-for-one exercise, meaning you can combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.

The Kettlebell Swing movement

Though it looks easy to perform, the swing can take a significant amount of time, practice, and coaching to perfect. Unfortunately, this exercise is often performed incorrectly, which will limit your results as well as any further progressions that are based on this basic movement.

Here is what you need to remember: The kettlebell swing is one of the highest value exercises you can do, and it is the foundation of effective kettlebell training. If you really want results, learn how to perform this movement the right way. It will truly pay off.


Exercise 2. The Goblet Squat

Squatting is a fundamental movement pattern with many variations. The kettlebell goblet squat is not just a leg exercise; it is another total-body juggernaut that offers more mobility—the ability to move easily so you can safely train with heavier loads—and improved conditioning.

The Goblet Squat

For maximum leg strength and development, there is no denying the barbell squat is king, but the goblet squat makes a nice addition. Learning how to move safely and efficiently is also a prerequisite for other kettlebell progressions.

This is one of the easier kettlebell exercises to learn and apply immediately in your training.


Exercise 3. The Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish Get Up, starting position

The Turkish get-up is a slow, deliberate movement that has been around for centuries. You start by lying on the floor, then stand up, then lie back down again in a specific sequence of movement transitions. The get-up will help you with functional tasks as well as higher-level exercises. It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (a kettlebell) it requires strength, mobility, and skilled movement.

For strong, resilient shoulders, improved hip and trunk strength, and enhanced mobility, the Turkish get-up is essential.


Exercise 4. The Strict Press

The Strict Press

Once you can do the first three exercises—and have demonstrated appropriate shoulder mobility and stability—the kettlebell press is another exceptional movement to learn. While it looks like an overhead press, it is not just a shoulder exercise, as you use your entire body for maximum pressing power and strength.

You might be wondering about the advantages of a kettlebell versus a dumbbell. I have found the kettlebell to be more comfortable because of the plane of motion from which you press. The unique shape of a kettlebell and offset handle allow you to press in the natural plane of motion relative to your shoulder joint.

The strict press is awkward with a dumbbell, and a barbell is even more difficult (although I am an enthusiastic fan of the barbell press). You just feel like you have more power to press efficiently with a kettlebell, mostly because of the more natural plane of motion.


Exercise 5. The Clean

Like the kettlebell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning. The difference here is that the kettlebell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body.

The Kettlebell Clean

The clean can take time to learn, but once you have it down it is an essential movement to use for high-powered kettlebell complexes.

The Clean can be used alone, but it is also effective with a complex such as the clean and press, which is considered one of the best combination lifts. When Cleans are used by themselves with appropriate-sized kettlebells, they are a powerful exercise.


Exercise 6. The Snatch

The kettlebell snatch—sometimes called the Tsar of kettlebell exercises—is the ultimate display of full-body power. Just to be clear, it is nothing like the barbell snatch, except that it begins with the weight in a low position and projects the weight overhead.

The kettlebell snatch is physically demanding and technical, but offers outstanding total-body strength and conditioning benefits. It can help transcend athletic performance to new levels, build explosive strength, and forge strong, powerful shoulders.

Snapshot of the Kettlebell Snatch

The snatch requires proper technique, explosive hip power, and athleticism. This exercise should not be attempted until the kettlebell swing hip-hinge pattern and explosive hip drive are established. Then you can progress to learning the kettlebell snatch.


Exercise 7. Farmer’s Carry – BONUS

Also known as the Farmer’s walk targets shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms, upper back, quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core. Only Equipment needed are 2 Dumbbells or kettlebells and space to walk a distance and return.

The farmer’s carry is a power-house beginner to intermediate level exercise that is part of the loaded carry set of moves that involve holding a weight (dumbbell or kettlebell) in each hand and walking for distance or time. Other carry exercises include the suitcase carry, racked carries, and overhead carries.

The Farmer’s Carry/Walk

The simplicity of this exercise is part of what makes it so popular. It fits into most workouts or warm-ups, and it only requires a set of dumbbells or kettlebells. You simply hold one dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and walk while engaging your core.

When done correctly, the farmer’s carry challenges all the major muscles in your body, increases your heart rate, builds strength in your core, and serves as a functional exercise for sports-specific training.

There are benefits to the farmer’s carry which targets your entire upper and lower body, and your core. More specifically, they strengthen the muscles in your biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, upper back, trapezius, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, lower back, obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis.

Farmer’s Walk is part of the Strongman Competitions

Depending on the weight you use, you may feel the burn in your chest muscles as well—if the weight is heavy enough. Since your forearms and grip also get an excellent workout, this move is a top pick for improving grip strength in the hands and wrists. Grip strength is an essential skill to have to perform daily activities like lifting and carrying heavy objects.

Additionally, the farmer’s carry helps strengthen your core, which may lead to reduced back pain, improved balance, and better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk. Here’s a good how-to and technique video on YouTube.


Now Get Started

A bit more from Bodybuilders.com. Though watching videos is helpful, the best way to learn how to correctly do these challenging movements is to work with a certified kettlebell instructor or Personal Trainer. The kettlebell is a tool, but it is a unique tool that requires proper technique to get optimal results and train in the safest way possible. (Go to the bodybuilders website to find a certified kettlebell trainer in your area.)

To learn how to use the kettlebell properly, I would recommend a minimum of at least one session (preferably more) with a qualified, certified instructor to assess your skills and help you learn proper technique. Proper form is everything with Kettlebells!